Epic EHR software isn’t accessible for blind hospital employees, suit claims

The National Federation of the Blind sued Epic Systems Corp. over its electronic health record software, alleging that blind hospital employees can’t use the program.

The complaint in federal court in Massachusetts last week alleges a part-time hospital dispatcher at Boston-based Brigham and Women Hospital couldn’t perform his job duties after the provider went live on an Epic EHR in 2015. The employee was ultimately placed on a paid leave of absence because of the difficulties, the lawsuit alleged.

The advocacy group claims Epic violated state law by selling and licensing EHR software that isn’t accessible to hospital employees who are blind.

Epic is one of the biggest brands in the EHR space. The Verona, Wis.-based company boasts more than 200 million patients have digital records at providers using its EHR system.

“We value, respect and support our customers’ employees who use screen readers and other assistive technologies with Epic and other vendor software to do their jobs every day,” an Epic spokesperson said in a prepared statement. “We assist our customers as they tailor specific workflows and utilize assistive technologies to support their employees with disabilities.”

The Epic spokesperson added that the company designs, develops and tests its software using technical standards issued by the World Wide Web Consortium, called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The Brigham and Women’s employee, Manuel Morse, sued the hospital; its parent organization, Partners HealthCare; and Epic with the support of the National Federation of the Blind in 2017, according to the complaint. The parties settled in 2018 after Brigham and Women’s adapted the EHR to interoperate with Job Access with Speech, a screen-access software program that converts text into synthesized speech or Braille displays.

However, Brigham and Women’s performed an Epic upgrade in late 2018 that allegedly caused these adjustments to not function.

Although Brigham and Women’s has since adapted the upgraded Epic software, the National Federation of the Blind argues the EHR is still not “fully accessible.”

“Mr. Morse is unable to complete certain elements of his fast-paced job with the same speed as he was before BWH began using Epic’s software,” the complaint reads.

In its lawsuit, the National Federation of the Blind asks the court to require Epic to remediate software used in Massachusetts that is not accessible to blind people and to prohibit Epic from selling inaccessible software to Massachusetts employers.

2019-03-27T16:04:21+00:00

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